Today I will spend some time talking about the various costumes of Alsace or Elsass.
This image above shows some of them from the north half of the province. Here is a map locating Alsace within France, and the flag of Elsass.
This region has been fought over by France and Germany for a long time, being in a strategic location on the west bank of the Rhine. It has been an integral part of France since the treaty of Versailles, but the ethnic origin of the majority of the people is German. The traditional language of most of the people in Elsass is a dialect of Allemanisch, with the exception of some of the valleys in the Vosges mountains in the west of the province, the so-called Welschlands. These people are not Cymry; 'Welsch' in old German means 'people whose language we don't understand', which is why the Anglo Saxons in Britain used it to refer to the natives there as well. 'Wend' is the equivalent term in the east Germanic dialects, which was used to refer to the Sorbs and Slovenes. These 'Welsch' spoke French dialects from Lorraine.
German, mainly for political reasons is considered to be one language. However it actually consists of a large number of very dissimilar dialects which linguists group into four languages: Lower German, Platt, or Niederdeutsch, Central German or Mitteldeutsch, Upper German or Oberdeutsch [Boarisch], and Allemanisch. Allemanisch dialects are spoken in Switzerland, Vorarlberg, Baden, the Schwartzwald, Elsass, Lorraine, Franconia and Swabia. [Upper German should not be confused with High German, Hochdeutsch, which is the literary language of all of Germany, Austria and Switzerland]. Here is a linguistic map of the traditional languages of Alsace.
Today, because of draconian measures by the French government, about 40 percent of the adults can speak Alsatian, but only 3 percent of the children. There is a move to revive the language, however, and I wish them well. For more information on Alsace, see this article.
This province is very rich in folk dress. From the point of view of Folk Costumes, Elsass can be divided into 6 regions. The small map has the regions outlined in color, and the large map can be blown up to read the place names.
Originally the cap was of brocade or adorned with rich gold embroidery, and was trimmed by a ribbon wrapped around the brim and tied in a bow in front.
In the majority catholic areas of Haguenau and Geispolsheim, unmarried girls wear red bows.
In the catholic area of Kochersberg, unmarried girls wear bows of many colors, silk plaid, brocade, or of a single color with floral designs printed, painted, or embroidered on them. The tails tend to be longer.
Region 3. Lower Alsace. This is in the east of the province, shown bounded by the amber line in the small map. This includes the lowlands along the Rhine river. This area has quite a variety of costumes, many including an elaborately decorated gold cap.
Some feature a bonnet with ribbons tied under the chin. Just a very short presentation of a number of costumes, north to south.
Bischoffsheim. This bonnet is also worn by young girls in neighboring areas of the Strasbourg area as the winter bonnet.
Meistratzheim. This area has a suncap of lace to rival that of Boulogne.
Region 5. Upper Alsace. This consists of the highlands of the western part of the province. This is the area to the left of the amber line on the small map. This includes the Welschlands. [Sundgau is technically part of Upper Alsace, but I am dealing with it as a separate region.]
Munster valley. Many of the people of this area are descended from Swiss settlers. This is evident in the costume. The women wear a small cap with a an ornamental ribbon around the edge, which forms a small rosette over the beak in front. There are earflaps on the sides with ribbons which tie under the chin. These are called dalwiwala.
The woman on the left in this photo is from the neighboring valley of Soultzeren.
The Welschlands. These are people who are traditionally Francophone, as can be seen from the place names; and whose costume belongs rather to the tradition of the Vosges and Lorraine.
Girl from Lapoutroie
Man from the Bruches valley.
Couple from Grandfontaine.
Here are some videos of dance groups in the costume of the Hanau area.
Marguerite Doerflinger, 'Decouverte des Costumes Traditionnels en Alsace', Colmar, 1979
Michel Charvet, 'Coiffes et Costumes d'Alsace', Strasbourg, 1997
Frantisek Zvardon, 'Les Alsaciens', Strasbourg, 2009
Philippe Legin, ''Toute L'Alsace - Coutumes et Costumes Alsaciens', Colmar, 1993
Charles Spindler, 'Costumes et Coutumes d'Alsace', Colmar, 1975 [reprint]
Caroline Brancq, 'Les Costumes Regionaux d'Autrefoix', Paris, 2003